The Toledo Blade uncovers a long history of violence from Tiger Force

It’s often been said that those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Well how can you learn about a particular history when those in charge do everything in their power to make sure the truth is concealed?

For those of you not following recent news, The Toledo Blade has been running a series of investigative reports regarding war crimes committed by an elite division of the Army’s 101st Airborne Division, known as Tiger Force, during the Vietnam War. After an 8 month investigation the Blade uncovered evidence that in 1967 Tiger Force went on a brutal rampage massacring hundreds of innocent villagers with no connection whatsoever to the Viet Cong.

During the slaughter there was no discrimination — men, women, children and even the elderly and babies were killed and to this day no action has been taken. In fact, during the investigation the Blade obtained the following quote from Sgt. William Doyle, “The only thing I regret is that I didn’t kill more. If I had known that it was going to end as quick as it did, the way it did, I would have killed a lot more.” As repulsive as it is to think about, this was not a unique quote.

It would be easy to envision this as an isolated group of men, bound to silence because of the shared blood on their hands.

However, that was not the case at all. Several members of the company attempted to alert superior officers with no results. Even some of the individuals who committed the atrocities attempted later in life to notify authorities, all to no avail.

Several years after returning home, James Barnett, a member of Tiger Force, called investigators to his home to confess his role in the crimes. From that initial confession the Army launched an investigation that produced evidence indicating 18 members of Tiger Force had committed as many as 20 war crimes while serving in Vietnam. Despite the mountain of evidence gathered which included eyewitnesses, no charges were filed. Instead, the very people who should have been working to expose these horrific acts did everything in their power to cover them up. The Blade concluded that commanders knew of the massacre as early as 1967, that after Barnett’s confession investigators waited a year to begin interviews. Investigators encouraged interviewees to “keep quiet” and finally allowed suspects to retire from the military thus preventing charges from being filed.

When The Blade began advertising this piece, many people asked why it was necessary to run the article 36 years after the events took place. The answer is simple; in the times we live in when politicians want to boil issues down to the most basic concepts of good and evil, it is important to examine acts of evil carried out in the name of the United States. America has a history of which we as citizens should be very proud. However as with all things there are also moments in our history of which we should be deeply ashamed. This incident with Tiger Force and the senseless murder of hundreds of innocent people, in addition to the cover up perpetrated by those in power, is one such moment.

We as a country are deeply proud of our role in WWII and we have every reason to be. We stopped the Nazis and brought an end to Hitler’s systematic extermination of the European Jews. However, it is important to remember that we are responsible for a holocaust of our own; the destruction of this country’s indigenous people, the Native Americans. We as a country have used our enormous wealth and prosperity to help build other nations. After WWII we spent millions rebuilding Europe, we are currently in the process of trying to procure $87 billion to rebuild Iraq after toppling a brutal regime. However, we came by this enormous wealth through the enslavement of African-Americans for hundreds of years. For all the good we have done in the world, we are not without blood on our hands.

There are some who might say that this entire column is just another “hate whitey rant.” They would be wrong. I love this country, but I recognize we have made mistakes in the past and we will undoubtedly make mistakes in the future. It might make some uncomfortable or even ashamed to hear about the atrocities committed by Tiger Force in the name of the United States, but it is essential that we do. It is especially important now as we find ourselves fighting another largely unpopular war halfway around the world. We would consider it absurd and insulting if the German people made no mention of the Holocaust when teaching history. In that same way it is absurd and insulting not to acknowledge the skeletons in our own closet in a frank and honest manner. After all, when the government and those in authority choose to keep the truth in the shadows how is anyone supposed to see the right path?